VENUE & BUILDING HISTORY
One unusual factor regarding our venue, that unlike most London fringe venues which are connected behind, above or below a pub or bar where the general public have access and may not want to see a production. We are a fully dedicated theatre with a bar attached for use solely for our theatre goers, so no noise from the bar area or TV football or quiz nights noise to compete with the theatre productions.
The large 4 storey building dates back to 1870 with us taking up the basement area and was built like many at the time as a home for a wealthy family and sub divided in the 1960's when our part of the building became a doctors surgery and waiting room. In fact the doctor’s receptionist from that time came to our opening show.
In the 1970's it became a nightclub along with the ground floor level and operated legally and sometimes illegally as an after hours drinking den until the well documented 'New Cross Fire' in the adjoining building on Sunday 18th January 1981,where many young innocent lives were lost meant lots of attention was put on the area and put an end to such activities in this building. When visiting our theatre please take a moment to stop outside and read the plaque on the adjoining wall which is the only reminder of the tragedy as that building has now been rebuilt using the same bricks to match our building.
Our part of the building reopened a few years later in the 1980’s and became a well known local music venue called ‘Marlowe’s’ named after the famous writer Christopher Marlow who was stabbed in a bar brawl nearby in Deptford. A large neon ‘Marlowe’s’ sign became a local landmark and the nightclub remained for many years. When it closed in the 1990’s, The National Theatre requested the sign, but was damaged when removed from the wall while being shipped to them. Although we have fully refurbished the bar area, we have kept the stunning glass bar top where you can clearly still see the ‘Marlowe’ signs etched into the glass.
We are also very near the site of the New Cross Empire, one of the UK's foremost venues in the inter war years and now sadly gone.
In the late 1990’s the venue closed and the whole building came up for auction and was bought and turned into a fabric studio called ATOM, who are now a very established brand in the fashion industry and are still based in the building on the ground floor. Residential units are above and the basement area was first used as storage before being taken over by ARC Sounds and for the previous 10 years before us, used as a successful sound recording studio. We kept the sound proof box which is now our tech box and the excellent sound proofing to the walls but the wall to ceiling to floor cord green carpet in the bar area and the foam backed ceiling in the theatre room had to go! ARC are still trading and moved to larger premises a few miles away and we moved in April 2011 solely with the intention of running our successful stand up comedy workshops as in two years we had expanded from hiring a small room in a community centre in Greenwich, to leasing a permanent base in a old factory building in Peckham and as the amount of courses and numbers increased, we needed even more space. We soon realised that the venue would also make a perfect fringe theatre and seeking permission from the freeholder and also getting lots of local support from our neighbours, spending six months refurbishing the venue plus obtaining the planning permission to turn it into a theatre and obtain the theatre and drink licences from Lewisham council. (Not as easy a task as thought because of the buildings usage in the past). We opened in September 2011.
We looked at a number of names for our theatre and thought of firstly ‘The New Cross Theatre’ but this name was already registered by a publishing house, so next was ‘The New X Theatre’ which was quickly disregarded as anyone not local saw it as written as a ‘X’ and not as a sign meaning ‘cross’. Also as we were going through all the correct channels to obtain our theatre licences and fire inspection certificates and planning permission, another local theatre who had been evicted from their previous venue after only six months in New Cross Gate took over the rent of a nearby shop and started trading as ‘The New X Theatre’ despite having no planning permission or change of use or any licences. Swift action was taken by the police and licensing and the landlord and despite having a programme of plays advertised, they were prevented from being allowed to open and none of the plays advertised took place and they closed down before their opening started. Because now we did not want to be associated with the same name ‘The New X Theatre’ we looked at other names and one suggestion was ‘The London Theatre’ or a variation on it as of course there must already be a London Theatre listed somewhere, so we checked google, odd so we checked again. There isn’t a London Theatre. We thought we can’t call ourselves that surely, why isn’t a major West End theatre got the name. There is the New London Theatre, but no records or ownership of the name The London Theatre. We thought are we a theatre, yes! Are we in London, yes! so quick call to our legal advisor and companies house who both confirmed we could take the name, so we became ‘The London Theatre’.
Our opening production was the play ‘Joy Division’ about Nazi sex slaves followed by a three week sell out run of ‘The Wood Demon’ performed in Russian. We noticed during this performance that some of the seats had bad sight lines to the stage, so over a period of two days between that production closing and another opening, we completely rebuilt the seating area making it racked with all our original new seats gone after three weeks and replaced with new seating. The venue has the lastest air con, LED lights and a proper changing room.